On Tap for Meatless Monday: Fresh Summer Corn Tart

Corn Tart

Happy Meatless Monday, y’all! Vore and I actually talked about our groceries recently–from both a budget and a health perspective–and he thought it might work well for him to go meatless TWO days a week. (Who is this man? I won’t complain.)

For those who might be stumped about vegetarian recipes meat eaters will enjoy, I have written a post with my favorite recipes. Here’s what we’re loving lately:

  • Mama Pea’s Black Bean Burgers. This is my go-to burger recipe. My guy loves it! I make a double batch and freeze leftovers for a quick meal. They’re great as burgers or crumbled on top of a salad.
  • Pizza. We usually make our own, but if you are in a pinch for time, this Annie’s Rising Crust Spinach Mushroom pie is the jam.
  • Veggie plates! Last night I made a corn tart (recipe below), mixed grilled veggies and Pink-Eyed Peas with Smoked Paprika from Cooking Light. I also buttered and grilled a couple of pieces of Portuguese bread. It was easy breezy and plenty filling for my hungry guy.

Now them, about this tart. YUM! I loosly followed this Whole Foods recipe, making substitutions based on what we had in the house. I used the healthified crust from my Tomato Pie Remix recipe in the place of the prepared version. Get to the store or farmer’s market while there is still lovely fresh corn and make this. You’ll thank me.

Fresh Summer Corn Tart

for the crust: 

1 1/2 cups homemade breadcrumbs, unseasoned

1 tablespoon butter

1 cup unsalted canolini beans

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

for the filling

3 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal

1 cup full fat coconut milk

3 ears yellow or bicolor corn, husked

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs (I used basil, chives and thyme)

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Tomatoes and basil for topping

*Combine the bread crumbs, butter, beans and salt in the food processor or high speed blender. Pulse until the beans/breadcrumbs/butter are integrated.

*Squish this mixture evenly into a 10.5 inch tart pan that has been coated with cooking spray. Ta-da! Crust.

*Bake the crust at 350 for 10 minutes. Meanwhile…

*Use a whisk to beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add in the cornmeal and coconut milk and whisk until combined. Stir in the corn, feta, herbs and salt. Get them good and integrated.

*Pour the egg/corn mixture into your prepared crust and bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes. Top with tomato slices and basil and enjoy!

Advertisements

What Do I Feed a Vegetarian for Dinner? Part 2

Bottega 1

Fabulous example of a veggie plate at Birmingham’s Bottega

Yesterday, I shared a few tips for hosting a vegetarian. Now then, are you ready to eat? I pulled out my trusty recipe files to find favorites I’ve called on again and again, and have listed them below. There are two ways to approach this: vegetarian main course or side items paired to make an entree.

Option 1: We’re All Eating Veggie! 

These robust recipes shouldn’t make meat eaters feel like they’re missing anything. Each can be paired with a simple salad to make a complete meal.

Vegetarian Chili, Cooking Light

Ultimate Vegan Lentil Walnut Loaf, Oh She Glows

Spinach-Mushroom Skillet Enchiladas, Cooking Light

*Artichoke, Spinach and Feta Stuffed Shells, Cooking Light

Spinach and Black Bean Lasagna, Southern Living

Crepes with Ratatouille, Cooking Light 

Mushroom and Roasted Red Pepper Tarts, Cooking Light

*This was the first meal I ever served Vore. Turns out, he doesn’t love tomato sauce, yet he still ate his entire plate. He must have liked me!

Option 2: Make a Meat Main Dish and Plenty of Sides

I love a vegetable plate. Choose three of these and voila–you have a meal! For example,  Baby Blue Salad + Roasted Cauliflower + Pink Eyed Peas would make a delicious plate.

Baby Blue Salad, Southern Living

Zesty Broccoli Casserole, Cooking Light

Feisty Green Beans, 101 Cookbooks

Pinked Eyed Peas with Smoked Paprika, Cooking Light

Cheesy Black Bean Mash, Southern Living

Roasted Cauliflower with Browned Butter, Cooking Light

Creamy Light Macaroni and Cheese, Cooking Light

What’s your favorite vegetarian recipe? 

What Do I Feed a Vegetarian for Dinner? Part 1

Veggie Dinner

There is really only one thing I hate about being a vegetarian: It seems to strike fear in the heart of anyone who may be hosting me. What on earth will they feed a girl who doesn’t eat meat? Should meat be present, will Britt stage an animal rights protest? (Answer: Not hardly!)

First off, I’d like to give an honest thank you for the concern about accommodating folks who eat a little differently than you. We appreciate it! I promise, feeding us is not as daunting as it sounds. I thought I would share a few tips, and also tried and true recipes the whole group will love. Ready?

Tips for hosting a vegetarian: 

  • When you offer the invitation, ask if there are any dietary restrictions. If you have a vegetarian, ask if he or she eats fish, dairy or eggs. Leave it at that. NBD.
  • Don’t feel like you have to change what you planned to cook. I can guarantee you that I will be much happier eating your delicious sides than I would be enduring the angry looks of people forced to eat tofu on my account.
  • Remember the stock. After you’ve been eating vegetarian for a while, any kind of meat bi-product becomes disagreeable to your stomach. Soups made with beef broth or mashed potatoes with chicken stock will not likely sit well. Luckily it’s an easy fix. Just sub in veggie broth.
  • Don’t make a fuss. It’s embarrassing when people go out of their way to accommodate us! Before everyone gathers at the table, explain to your vegetarian what is appropriate for her to eat. Please don’t single us out in front of the entire group.
  • Set a portion aside. If meat is used as a garnish or is stirred in at the end of cooking, keep a small amount separate, then discreetly offer it to the veggie folks. “Darling, I know pork isn’t your thing. I set this broccoli salad aside before I sprinkled the bacon on top.”
  • If you are eating out, choose an ethnic restaurant-Mexican, Italian, Indian, Chinese, etc. Other cultures tend to feature more plant-centric dishes, i.e. beans at a Mexican place, and tofu at a Chinese establishment. Outback Steakhouse or a barbecue restaurant are a little tougher for us. Vegetarians end up eating a salad and plain baked potato for dinner. (Which is fine every once in a while!)

Vegetarians, do you have any additional tips to share with our hosts? I’ll be back tomorrow with a few favorite recipes perfect for your dinner party.

How We Save Money: The Weekly Shop-N-Chop

I confess: meal planning can be a little daunting. That said, it can save a bundle of time and money throughout the week. I’ve jumped on the train for the last couple of months, and we are loving the results. Here’s how it works:

Grocery List 1

I keep food separated by areas of the store. It’s easier this way!

On Saturday or Sunday, I take an inventory of our current supplies, then I visit the grocery website in search of sales/coupons.

I plan meals around what we’ve got and what’s the most economical that week. Then go I to the store with a meticulous list. The goal is to hit the grocery one time/week and stick to the plan I’ve mapped out. If I’m hard-headed enough, I can usually make it on both counts.

When I get home, I pull out my knife and get to work. I spend an hour or two, chopping and storing the vegetables that suit themselves to early prep. I find that I dread the chopping less when Vore is home to keep me company, and that weeknight meal prep is ever so much easier when the ingredients are ready to go.

I thought it might be interesting to show you what our pantry, fridge and freezer look like AFTER I have stocked them for the week.

Pantry labeled 1Remember how much I love jars? I save them all, then keep our pantry full of goodies from the bulk bin. Bulk bins help us control how much we buy and are almost always less expensive than packaged goods. This lets you buy organic!

We don’t do a whole lot in the way of canned stuff, but I do usually have sliced olives, pumpkin and diced tomatoes on hand.

The Fridge

As for the fridge, I was feeling particularly zealous this week. I made my almond milk from scratch. This is not the norm–there is usually a big container of Blue Diamond in there! I rarely stock dairy milk anymore, as it seems to bug my stomach. (This horrifies me! Dairy has always been an easy protein for me.) I sometimes have pre-made decaf coffee in a jar, as I don’t do caffeine and the man does. We keep beer and water as well. It’s fun around here!

I’m a huge fan of taking your fresh things out of the crisper and putting them right in front of your face. It will encourage you to add greens to your eggs or choose fruit as a snack instead of something processed.

You can see all my veggies chopped and ready to go in beloved glass lock containers. These are brilliant at keeping fresh things fresh–highly recommended. There’s a big batch of red quinoa in there as well, so I have whole grains ready on the fly.

The freezerThe freezer and I are besties. For real, I freeze e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g! Vore and I have a leftover rule. We eat a meal fresh one time, then dip into the leftovers twice. After that, it’s getting frozen for a time when we aren’t sick of whatever it is.

A few years ago, I invested in a vacuum sealer, and it’s genius at keeping our frozen meals fresh. I also keep my flour and baking supplies in there so they stay fresh.

So there you have it–a week in the grocery life of team Veggie + Vore. How often do you visit the grocery store? Do you plan your meals ahead of time, or come up with something on the fly?

How Girls’ Weekend Led to the “Oven Boiled Egg” Experiment

Last weekend I went to the Alabama Gulf Coast with 7 dear friends from high school days. Here we are poolside in our orange and blue, prepping to watch Auburn football:

We went to a private school that only had about 100 students per grade, so it’s a big deal to get 8 of us in one place at one time. It’s pretty awesome to hang out with people who knew you well at age 12! I had hurricane bangs…

Our weekend was a total flashback: There was hair braiding and a makeup tutorial. We ate cookies, watched movies and talked about boys.

*It should be noted that the “boys” are now husbands and one friend was using a breast pump during the chat. But I digress.

One of my favorite things about the girls’ weekend was all the tips we passed back and forth. I learned new tricks for Instagram, put a book on my reading list and discovered a website for collages. Did you know there are candy corn M&Ms? After eating them, we all got a few workout tips from Suzanne, co-owner of Homewood FIT. (Above, she’s sitting next to me in the navy stripes. Hi Suz!)

Suzanne also shared a method for oven “hardboiled eggs” that I was itching to try when I got back home. The instructions are simple:

  • Add eggs to muffin cups to keep them from rolling around.
  • Cook in a pre-heated oven at 325 for 25-30 minutes.

How can you mess that up? Here goes nothing…

I added a step: Plunge in a ice bath afterwards to stop the cooking. The result:

Not bad! This was try #1, so of course I will make a few adjustments. These have just a smidge of grey around the edge of the yolks, meaning they cooked a little too long. I think 26 minutes will be my perfect time. This might be my new go-to for easy eggs.

Have you ever cooked “boiled eggs” in the oven?

Homemade Seasoned Bread Crumbs

What do you call this thing?

Until last year, I never knew it had a name. I always referred to it as “the end piece.” Apparently it’s called a bread heel. Who knew?

No matter what you call it, most of us don’t eat it. It’s a little too much crust. That said, I don’t like throwing food away. I’ve been amassing quite a collection in my freezer. Yesterday, I decided to put the heels to good use, making bread crumbs. Three cheers for a less processed version of the stuff you buy in the box!

Homemade Seasoned Bread Crumbs

Crumbs, pre-bake

Ingredients: Bread Heels (I had 6 of varying sizes); olive oil in a spray bottle; garlic salt, Italian seasoning, sage

*Place your bread heels in a food processor, and grind to a fine crumb.

*Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper; spray with olive oil. (If you don’t have a Misto, you so need one. You’ll never use that nasty Pam stuff again.)

*Spread crumbs in a single layer on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle with seasonings.

*Toss to coat, then give your crumbs another light olive oil spray.

*Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, until crunchy and lightly browned.

Here were my ratios: 3 1/2 cups bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon each of garlic salt and Italian seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon sage. These will of course vary by the amount of bread crumbs you have on hand and your personal palate. The possibilities are infinite!

I used the finished product to make eggplant parmesan last night (recipe coming) and stored the remainder in one of my beloved jars. What’s your favorite way to use leftover bread? 

Fresh Corn, The Tidy Way

Corn on the cob: It’s just not ladylike. You are forced to eat with your fingers, gnaw at your food, and then inevitably, you end up with remnants stuck between your teeth. That, friends, is why I prefer my corn OFF the cob.

This is a task easier said than done. You’ll find that if you prop your corn on the cutting board prior to shearing, the kernels go all over the place. So what’s a girl to do?

Get out your bundt pan! [I won’t take credit for inventing this trick, but I’ve been using it so long I don’t pretend to remember its source.] Balance your corn in the center of the pan, shear off the kernels and let them collect in the bundt pan. Mess: eliminated.

Tofu-Torial

[Alternate post title: “Tofu-How-To.” I’m hilarious.]

This week, as I made my normal rounds at Whole Foods, I rolled the buggy to the tofu area for the obligatory stop. Two ladies, apparently a mother/daughter, pulled me over to ask questions. True story.

They were trying to add soy protein to their diet, but had no idea where to start. I looked like I knew what I was doing (ha!) so they asked why I chose the product I had in hand. Poor ladies. I LOVE to talk about tofu. They might have gotten more than they bargained for.

If these two were inquisitive enough to stop a stranger, I figured they had company. In this post, I will impart my wisdom on the tofu basics. A few points to start with:

  • Tofu is “soy bean curd.” Don’t tell anyone. That sounds disgusting.
  • It comes in blocks, packed in water. Also kind of gross, but you’ll get past it.
  • You can buy shelf stable tofu (not my favorite). This is found on the Asian aisle.
  • I like the refrigerated tofu, which you’ll find beside the salad stuff in most grocery stores.
  • IMHO, tofu has the texture of scrambled eggs and has basically no flavor.
  • This image is my favorite brand of tofu. “Nasyoya Light Firm.” Buying “light” isn’t about the calories. The texture is better.

Now that you’ve bought your block of soy goodness, what are you going to do with it? I’ll show you my day-that-ends-in-y preparation. There are a zillion ways to prep your tofu, but we’re going basic today. Let’s get cooking.

1. Get rid of the water.

Tofu is waterlogged when you get it out of the box. Not appetizing. There are several ways to drain it. I received this spring loaded TofuXpress as a gift and it is magical, as you can see from the photos above. After three hours in the fridge, look how much water came out of the block!

However, if you’re not ready to invest in the gear quite yet, you can use the method I started with: wrap the block of tofu in paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Put something heavy on top, like a cast iron skillet. Let it sit for a while, the longer the better. Your towels will be soaked!

2. Slice and dice.

Slice the block. Any number of sizes or shapes will work, but my favorite way to go is 8 lengthwise, then four horizontally. This yields bite size pieces that will take on just the right amount of seasoning.

3. Brown and season

Transfer your pieces to a non-stick pan, sprayed with olive oil and preheated to medium high. You want to get each side toasty, which will take a little longer than you think. Patience! Letting the tofu brown makes it taste infinitely better.

Now it’s time to season. This particular batch is sprinkled liberally with garlic salt, and has a tablespoon of balsamic vinaigrette stirred in right at the end. I’ve got tons more flavor combos, but we’ll get to that in another post.

4. EAT!

I enjoyed this balsamic tofu over polenta, with broccoli, marinara and goat cheese.

What’s your favorite way to eat tofu? Any other tips or suggestions? Share away…

How we save money: the bulk bin edition

Ah, the bulk bins. I once found these intimidating. Now we’re best friends. 

Here’s how it works: health food stores stock a wide variety of goods in big bins with scoops. You grab a bag, portion out what you’d like, write a number on it, then pay. Packaging is minimal (eco-friendly!) and you buy only what you need (no waste!)

I first ventured onto the bulk aisle seeking the freedom to experiment. Say you have a recipe that calls for a tiny amount of something you’ve never tasted, maybe buckwheat flour. The smallest package you can find is 1 pound. If you try the recipe and hate buckwheat flour, you’re stuck with a useless, expensive product. But if you hit up the bulk bin, you get the amount you need and you’re done. The risk is minimal. No fuss, no muss.

There’s also an argument in favor of bulk bins as a less expensive way to buy grains, nuts, etc. I ran across this article today proving the theory has its skeptics, but I’m a believer. It may not be 89% cheaper as one study claims, but it almost always saves a little something.

Why don’t I prove it? The image below shows the bulk bin items that made their way into my cart this week.

I wandered the aisles, picking up a few of the name brands. Check out the comparisons:

How about those oats! This savings makes organic doable for our family, which is a big deal to me. And the mushrooms? Wow. Half off!

For the items we buy, the bulk bins are almost always a better deal, some by a little, some by a lot. Here’s my advice: take a few minutes to comparison shop on the things you buy frequently. Saving $1.50 for every pound of oats you buy is HUGE if you eat them for breakfast daily.

Now that I’ve got you sold on the bins, what are you to do with the contents of the baggies you bring home? That’s coming tomorrow in a post I think I’ll call, “I love this jar.”

If you shop on the bulk aisle, what’s your best bargain? 

How to Order When There’s No Veggie Menu Option.


The veggie plate at Birmingham's Chez FonFon. My favorite.

Vore and I live in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s my hometown and I love it. Not too big, not to small. But alas, not too vegetarian friendly.

But just because there’s not something vegetarian on the menu does not mean you’re stuck with iceberg salad and a tomato slice. Get creative! Here are a few of my tried and tips for ordering vegetarian: 

Ask! This is by far the most important tip of the day. Even if there isn’t a veggie item on the printed menu, chefs are almost always willing to accommodate you. Your average restaurant is going to offer you pasta. For me, this is a serious let down. (So uncreative!) But nicer restaurants will usually craft a plate of the day’s sides for you. Many, many times the meat eaters say they’d rather have my plate. But the key is asking!

Use our steakhouse trick. Last night, we went to Fleming’s, a favorite of Vore’s. I don’t complain about going because of their killer wine list. On our last visit, the server charged us the full price of a family-sized side for each vegetable on my chef-made veggie plate. Not cool. This time, I ordered a baked potato on a large plate, then Vore and I shared the remaining family-portioned sides. And this time, there are leftovers in the fridge.

Make a swap. There are two restaurants we frequent who have salads I love, but the main feature is meat. One comes with hardboiled egg and bacon. Ask for extra egg and no bacon. The other comes with chicken and black beans. Extra beans, no chicken. Getting the hang of it?

Go Asian. Many Asian restaurants will sub tofu for any meat on the menu. Wow, does that open up some possibilities!

Take the last resort. Sometimes the group wants Outback. Sometimes you have to suck it up. This isn’t exactly the most desirable meal, but in a pinch, a loaded baked potato and a salad will work. Just make sure you ask them to nix the bacon.

Vegetarians, do you have any tried-and-true ordering tricks? I’d love to hear…